Mobile phones are the most pervasive teenage distraction and nowhere are they more disruptive than in the classroom. Not only are texting teens not paying attention to the teacher, but ringing phones can bring a lecture to an abrupt halt and disturb other students as well. However, some inventive teachers are harnessing the substantial power of the cellphone to help augment lessons rather than detract from them.
Smart phones can be a very effective tool when employed for research and development. Tech-savvy teachers are encouraging their students to use their phones to do research online, to co-ordinate group projects, to watch relevant videos and to record their lectures, discussions and lab sessions to help with studying for exams.
Smart phones are also used to take pictures of diagrams, notes, experiments and other projects and all of this media is shared online with class members to create a valuable resource for students. Apps which help to augment learning or games that help students to learn are freely available online too.
Students are also able to keep abreast of the latest news and developments in the field through online news broadcasts and articles.
Teachers who have begun to harness the power of phones have had surprisingly good results. Now that students are using their phones, they are less likely to abuse the privilege and many are more involved in lectures. Students are also more receptive to information that is displayed in a variety of forms so that they can pick the one that suits their learning style best.
This means that aural learners can make podcasts of their lectures which they can listen to whenever they need to review. Visual learners can take videos of lectures and lab sessions and watch relevant online videos on YouTube.
Students are able to share not only the files they have created, but also their online resources with other students. These can be curated in a central site for all students to use.
High school teacher Bob Kutschel has implemented the use of cellphones in his classroom with impressive results. “I would not say that students get better grades by using their Smartphones,” Kuschel said. “What I’d say is that their interest level increases. They find the information they need by themselves and they ask better questions in class. They’re also reading the current science news because they know I’m going to bring it up and they want to be prepared.”
Of course there will always be students who allow themselves to be distracted by their cellphones and spend their time texting or playing games. But cellphones and tablets can really be a wonderful tools to add to your classroom repertoire and using these tools in your lessons may mitigate their effects as major distractions.
Pic by Esther Vargas